Hafez al-Assad

18th President of Syria

Hafez al-Assad (6 October 193010 June 2000) was a Syrian politician and military officer who served as President of Syria from 1971 to 2000. He was also Prime Minister of Syria from 1970 to 1971, as well as regional secretary of the regional command of the Syrian regional branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party and secretary general of the National Command of the Ba'ath Party from 1970 to 2000.

Hafez al-Assad in 1987

Assad participated in the 1963 Syrian coup d'état which brought the Syrian regional branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party to power, and the new leadership appointed him commander of the Syrian Air Force. In February 1966, Assad participated in a second coup, which toppled the traditional leaders of the Ba'ath Party and brought a radical military faction headed by Salah Jadid to power. Assad was appointed defence minister by the new government. Four years later, Assad initiated a third coup which ousted Jadid, and appointed himself as the undisputed leader of Syria.


  • Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united....I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.
  • Strike the enemy’s settlements, turn them into dust, pave the Arab roads with the skulls of Jews.
    • Michael B. Oren, Six Days of War [Oxford University Press, 2002], p293

Quotes about Assad

  • When I asked Bhutto what he thought of Assad, he described the Syrian leader as “The Levanter.” Knowing that, like himself, I was a keen reader of thrillers, the Pakistani Prime Minister knew that I would get the message. However, it was only months later when, having read Eric Ambler’s 1972 novel The Levanter that I understood Bhutto’s one-word pen portrayal of Hafez Al-Assad. In The Levanter the hero, or anti-hero if you prefer, is a British businessman who, having lived in Syria for years, has almost “gone native” and become a man of uncertain identity. He is a bit of this and a bit of that, and a bit of everything else, in a region that is a mosaic of minorities. He doesn’t believe in anything and is loyal to no one. He could be your friend in the morning but betray you in the evening. He has only two goals in life: to survive and to make money.
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